RASHMI OBEROI | 14 AUGUST, 2019
Times of Turmoil
It’s that week in August once again that is dotted with festivals…celebrations…long weekends…vacations… But this year, things are different. Everyone is pensive, quiet, in no mood to celebrate or be exuberant. It is now a norm to see the NCR getting quiet and slow during holidays.
Such a rarity I know but nothing makes Delhiites happier than an extended weekend where they can take off for a short trip. Avid travellers always wait with bated breath for this period in August as the perfect window to plan slightly longer holidays. Office goers’ plan/hatch/strategize to ensure their long weekend plans to holiday and party don’t go in vain.
In Kashmir, with a clampdown on all forms of communication and virtually no contact with the locals, people were in no mood to celebrate Eid. The locals from there are all anxious about the safety and well-being of their loved ones in the valley. We are slowly approaching Raksha Bandhan which falls on the same day as our Independence Day. In these times of turmoil, there are no signs of celebration anywhere.
The rest of our country is battling with heavy downpours and a breakdown of the civil administration. Flood… Lynching… Hatred and so much more happening around us.
The human hand in nature’s fury? Oh yes, definitely.
Experts see global warming as a definite reason behind such an extreme and unpredictable pattern of changing weather with many states battling severe flood. Last week, in a single day, the total rainfall in the state of Karnataka was five times more than the normal.
There has been no let-up in the rain at all. Heavy downpours continued to hit many parts of the country. The death toll due to floods in Kerala reached 85, while in Karnataka more than 40 people died in rain-related accidents. On Monday, six people were reportedly buried in landslides in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Heavy rains also triggered a landslide near Harishankar temple in western Odisha.
State authorities in Maharashtra said the death toll due to floods crossed 43. Eight days after floods rattled Kolhapur and Sangli districts of Maharashtra, the National Highway 4 that connects Mumbai with Bengaluru was partially opened.
The vivid photographs being shared of all the problem states are rather grim. Disasters in India have become common place and the death toll due to natural and made-made problems is bleeding India. We have huge calamities causing fatalities and destruction in varying degrees in every nook and corner of India; but not every disaster gets the attention it needs. Both natural disasters and terrorism are uncertain events. Yet, the lack of preparedness to overcome natural disasters will never catch the attention of the nation, whereas the security lapses of a terror attack storm the headlines.
It has become a pattern in India that the issue of accountability to lapses in disaster management, whether the disaster occurred in the past or an anticipated disaster in the future, remains missing or gets obstructed in any public discourse on disaster management. The consequences due to these lapses on the country are profound. We have agencies and the know-how in place but those at the helm simply fail to endorse effective management to save people, animals, land, businesses and homes. In contrast, when the disaster strikes, nature is conveniently blamed.
We have a huge problem: There is no accountability. No investigations hold ground for identifying the lapses and identifying the culpability of the agencies in disasters.
We are always blindsided and the truth is never revealed. Facts are brushed under the carpet and therefore lessons are never learnt. Our business-as-usual attitude leads to more episodes of horrendous death and destruction caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, cyclones, landslides, etc.
Due to the misleading and distorted propaganda by vested interests projecting nature as the culprit while preserving the status quo of disaster mismanagement, India is incurring heavy losses to its economy. This ruse, however, has to end. This will only happen when we hold those in power accountable for their actions or lack of any action depending on the given situation.
Therefore, lacklustre celebrations around us are not surprising at all. Only time will tell… Listening to the wind of change in an August summer night.